Archive for August, 2007

The Mobile Fab Lab

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Working inside the Mobile Fab Lab; Mobile Lab Exterior; exterior close-up; Sherry Lassiter from CBA leads tutorial inside the Mobile Fab Lab; participant shows newly fabbed product from the tutorial.

The Center for Bits and Atoms team managed to put together a working, networked , Mobile Fab Lab in the few days before the Fab 4 Forum and Symposium started. The interior design is all “press fitted” woodwork, designed by MIT architecture students and produced in a Fab Lab. That brings us spectacularly close to the M.C. Escher-like prospect of a Fab Lab making a Fab Lab.

I believe this option might actually be the menu when the Mobile Fab Lab makes its first tour, landing for a few weeks at the home of Sustainable South Bronx. SSB’s outreach director, Dolge, painted the side of the lab shown above.

Making Almost Anything

Friday, August 24th, 2007

The range of Fab-able products I’ve seen this week has included key-chains, furniture, Lego blocks, boats and houses. Foe some insight into the latter, check out Larry Sass’s project here: His ideas will meet up with the Mobile Fab Lab to make housing for New Orleans later this year.

I’ve been expressing my desire to use the Fab Lab to give folks an open door to unfettered possibility. That door really opened for me when I understood how the Lab can be used to design , fabricate and program circuit boards. Here’s a short video showing the Modela machine printing out a circuit that we made this week…

Fab 4 Scenes

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Yuen from Costa Rica putting in a little night work on their award-winning 4×8 contest entry; Lass and the Sustainable South Bronx’s Dynamic Duo; Detail from the exterior painting of the Mobile Fab Lab; Epilog laser cutter; Netherlands Fab Lab presentation;

Fabbing Wireless Mesh Computing Centers

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Neil Gershenfeld, Center for Bits and Atoms Director; Copper antenna elements designed and produced in the Fab Lab; Earlier version of antenna; Cisco’s Kerry Lynn explains the production process

The week’s workshops are divided into four tracks: Beginning Tutorial, Hardware, Software and Operations. They’re planned to give essential new information as well as opportunities for extended group conversations with other Fab Labbers, but they’re happening concurrently. If you’re here by yourself or with just one other person from your org, there’s a good chance you could miss some vital tidbits or moments. I hooked up with Nele from Belgium, Ivan from Portugal and Smari from Iceland to form a “Fab Singles” group. The four of us are at relatively the same stage in getting a lab set up. We agreed to each take on a track and share notes so we don’t miss anything.

Appropriately for me, and for this blog, the first session I attended was wedded to the idea of developing rural wireless mesh networks. Neil explained a concept for making Fab Labs community computing centers residents as far 10 km away from the lab. The concept and fabrication process emerged from different nodes on the Fab Lab Network which goes far toward supporting the assertion that Fab Labs are a mechanism for distributed invention. The key components can be made in a Fab Lab and include thin(ner) client computers and high gain antenna elements. The application power for the thin clients will reside in a server at the Fab Lab, the clients, which only have to to send and receive text, will use Internet 0 delivered over the wireless network to communicate with the Fab Lab server. George Sergiadis and Kerry Lynn guided us through the fabrication process including using the Vinyl Cutter to produce the copper antenna elements

Estimated cost for the thin clinet is $10. $1 – 3 for the antennas.

Becoming FABulous

Monday, August 20th, 2007

I’m spending a rainy week in Chicago at “Fab 4: The Fourth International Fab Lab Forum and Symposium on Digital Fabrication.

A few weeks ago, folks from MIT’s “Center for Bits and Atoms” because they thought Heads On Fire and San Diego might provide a good home for one of their Fab Labs. These are advanced centers for digital design and fabrication that they’ve been creating in cities around the world, including some very remote sites and sites in the developing world. I agreed and began the whirlwind tour that’s led me here. See what it’s all about here:

One of the aspects of the Fab Lab that I’m most excited about is also my justification for writing about it in a blog dedicated to community wireless networks. Community networks that aren’t primarily about connecting people to the Internet , really emphasize the possibility of community advancement that can come about through a network. The Fab Labs are both a physical network, connected by a video conferencing system, and conceived as network for “distributed” inventing.